After serving for 30 years as conductor of the UC Davis symphony orchestra, D. Kern Holoman has passed the baton to a new face. After an international search, Christian Baldini has been named the new symphony conductor.
Baldini is scheduled to make his conducting debut on June 2 as the symphony orchestra ends its current season. He will join the UC Davis faculty on July 1 as an assistant professor in the music department.
Baldini was born in Argentina and began his musical journey as a pianist, composing his own music early on as a child. He eventually turned to conducting as a means of performing his own works. He went on to train in Buenos Aires and received his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Penn State. He has worked throughout Europe, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Korea and most recently as music director and conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the State University of New York.
Baldini’s music has been praised around the world, and he’s earned awards for the 2005 Seoul International Competition for Composers in South Korea and the 2006 Sao Paulo Orchestra International Conducting Competition in Brazil.
His diverse background has worked to his advantage, expanding his repertoire as a musician. He cited cultural trademarks as his greatest musical influences. Tango has been a big influence in his works, he said.
“I feel very lucky that I got the best of both worlds,” he said. “I think that one has to take the best of what you see, from what you like to what you don’t like. It’s very important to see what other people have done. We learn and have all this amazing history behind us.“
Baldini expressed his desire to uphold the pride and traditions established with the symphony orchestra while bringing a new energy and point of view. He said that his greatest goal at UC Davis is to involve more young people in the orchestra and music in general.
“I think there is so much to give in terms of getting more people involved in music. It’s so vibrant,“ Baldini said.
However, he is careful not to reserve this involvement strictly for music majors. He noted the importance of both the musician and the audience in a performance.
“I like to see people come and participate,” Baldini said. “You need to see something that really moves you. It’s not like being in front of the TV. It’s like a perfect machine. It’s a big motivation to have people there that are sensitive to what you are doing.“
The search committee for the new conductor included a range of UC Davis faculty and was chaired by professors of music Ross Bauer and Laurie San Martin. Graduate and undergraduate students as well as patrons and musicians were also encouraged to give their input on the candidates.
San Martin explained that Baldini clearly stood out from the other candidates.
“On the podium, Baldini has a magnetism and shows a clear love for the music,” she said. “Off the podium, he speaks of an ambitious and exciting future of the 21st century university orchestra.“
Jessie Anne Owens, professor of music and dean of humanities, arts and cultural studies expressed her appreciation for the way in which Baldini was selected as the new conductor.
“I am very proud of the excellent process we used,” she said. “The entire community was involved, and that means that Baldini can begin knowing that he has a broad base of support from students, faculty and members of the community.“
However, it seems that the best person to decide on the new conductor would be the resigning one.
“I’ve talked to him a lot since the decision was reached,” Holoman said. “I know he finds orchestras and the music written for them all-consuming, much as I have done.“
Looking to the future, Owens expressed her confidence and eagerness to see Baldini come into his own at UC Davis next fall.
“Every conductor has a distinctive vision and set of goals. It will be interesting to watch Baldini establish his own voice as a conductor,” she said.
JULIA MCCANDLESS can be reached at email@example.com.